Almost five months of complete shutdown of metro services across the country has created an unprecedented disruption of business for the operators. In an interview with Jyoti Mukul
and Megha Manchanda
, Delhi Metro
Rail Corporation Managing Director Mangu Singh
discusses the financial and operational challenges for Delhi’s transport lifeline and the future of mass rapid transport systems. Edited excerpts:
Delhi Metro is the lifeline for people in Delhi and NCR. Do you think the delay in resuming services will take away people from using metro services and the gains of wooing people away from private transport will be lost?
It will be a challenge for metro whenever the services resume as in the near future people who can afford private vehicles will use them. Thereafter, it will take some time for people to come back to the metro for their daily commute. It is a temporary loss, once the pandemic is completely over, people will come back to us. Private vehicles are not alternative to public transport in the long-run.
DMRC is the only metro service in the world that has been shut for almost five months, no other country or city suspended their mass rapid transit service. How do you react to that?
We don’t have to doubt the wisdom of the decision makers. We have to simply follow instructions. We operate public transport and we are not an expert on the handling of Covid-19. We will do whatever we are told by the government.
Before lockdown, we touched around 6 million journeys a day, which translates to roughly Rs 10 crore income from ticket sales daily. It will be 150 days since its shut, therefore approximately a loss of Rs 1,500 crore. (DMRC
halted operations on March 22, the day the Centre announced janta curfew and has been shut since then). At present, there are about 400 shops in the metro stations apart from the stations with property development such as Nehru Place, HUDA City Centre etc. So there is loss of revenue from there, too. In 2018-19, the earning from non-passenger revenue was Rs 594 crore, which includes income from rental, lease as well as consultancy related sources.
Has any of the tenants at the Delhi Metro, using its real estate at the stations, invoked force majeure due to the Covid-19 shutdown?
Yes. All the retail parties using the metro real estate have said they can’t pay to DMRC, they have made their representation and we are examining as we have to work out a compensation package for them. A general manager-level committee has been constituted by DMRC, which would come out with its report on the quantum of compensation for the retailers.
Will DMRC be in a position to make its loan payments? What has been the finance ministry’s response to the moratorium sought by you on loan repayment?
So far, we have not defaulted on our loan payment. Loan worth Rs 1,100 crore is due and we have requested the Centre to defer our loan payment or allow us some relaxation. And if the need arises, we will seek more support from the government.
Now with the thrust on social distancing measures, how prepared are you to resume metro services? What role will technology play in the opening up of the metro?
restrictions will make it challenging when we open up. As part of the standard operating procedure for DMRC, we will announce that all gates will not be available, there will be only one entry/exit gate or maximum of two gates at large stations. Since tokens are a risky affair, we will not allow them and they will have to be replaced with smart cards, which in turn would be topped up via digital payment methods.
If the ministry of home affairs allows you to operate under the Unlock 3 guidelines, how long will metro take to resume services?
We don’t need much time. It would take two days to restart services. Our system is ready, except cleaning and sanitisation of some stations.
Will you start with full service or will there be curtailment? Also, will it be something like only staff reporting for essential services is allowed like in the case of Mumbai sub-urban trains?
We would like to start with full service since that will ensure social distancing
and no crowding. We cannot choose the category of passengers to be allowed to commute. That would be communicated by the Union government to us.
With the services halted for almost five months, will it lead to an increase in operation and maintenance cost for DMRC?
No, the expenditure will not increase on O&M but we have identified certain areas where we can defer certain works to contain expenditure. Mainly deferred non-essential expenditure.
What has been the impact of lockdown on construction work at Delhi Metro?
There was a setback from the labour point of view, but the labour has now started coming back. We utilised the lockdown
period to award the new civil work contracts.